JEFFERSON CITY — State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, filed a bill to repair damage done by the passage of last session’s Senate Bill 43.
Signed in August by the governor, the new law created serious consequences for Missourians. First, the law shields perpetrators of workplace harassment or discrimination from accountability. Second, it takes Missouri out of compliance with federal non-discrimination standards.
“The errors in this law have created some serious issues for Missouri citizens,” said Sen. Nasheed. “Victims of verbal and physical harassment in the workplace cannot hold their harassers accountable. On top of that, the state is losing hundreds of thousands of HUD dollars because we aren’t properly enforcing anti-discrimination enforcement procedures.”
The new law prevents victims of workplace discrimination from naming their harassers in court. Those who make sexually explicit comments or unwanted advances - or those who discriminate at work - can never be held accountable. Instead, transgressors can go from employer to employer and continue their abusive behavior. Sen. Nasheed’s bill fixes that oversight by allowing transgressors to be named in lawsuits.
“We’ve seen outrageous behavior coming to light across the country in recent months,” said Sen. Nasheed. “Not allowing a person subjected to that kind of injustice to name and face their abuser is adding insult to injury.”
Protecting serial harassers in Missouri has also hurt the state's bottom line. HUD's Fair Housing Assistance Program funds state housing discrimination investigations. Missouri's anti-discrimination laws now are substantially weaker, and do not align with federal standards. The state's non-compliance makes it ineligible for the $500,000 it receives from the FHAP.
“We knew this was likely to happen and in past years had included language in bills similar to SB 43 to keep Missouri in compliance with the Federal program,” said Nasheed, whose new bill includes language supplied by the Missouri Commission on Human Rights intended to keep Missouri in line with the federal standard.
Missouri has until March 2018 to get back into compliance with the program, which requires that states have anti-discrimination laws similar to the federal Fair Housing Act.